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The Labor Market In Florida Is Rising, But Unemployment Rate Is Also Up

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Florida’s unemployment rate has ticked up to 5.7% – a slight rise from April despite jobs added statewide in that period, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Despite adding about 4,000 jobs, unemployment was up in the western Panhandle; Escambia County rose from 5.3% in April to 5.7%, Santa Rosa, 4.6% to 4.8%, and Okaloosa County from 4.3% to 4.6%.

DEO Secretary Jesse Panuccio said jobless rates were also up in the two local metropolitan areas. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent jumped from 5.1%-5.4%; Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin went from 4.4% to 4.6%.

But Panuccio says you have to look at the big picture. 

“If you look at May 2014 in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, the collective unemployment rate was six percent,” said Panuccio. “Over the year you still had a drop in unemployment and you did see total jobs up 4,000, and private sector jobs up 4,200.”

Florida’s overall rate remains higher than the national mark of 5.5%, with around 545,000 people out of work. Despite the higher rate, DEO reports there were 17,000 jobs added last month.

“We continue to have one of the highest job growth rates in the country,” Panuccio said. “Remember, we keep adding new residents in the state. Over the year we saw our labor force grow.”

Economists say there’s no such thing as 0% unemployment. Panuccio agrees, adding that whatever figure represents “zero” depends on who you ask and what’s happening in that particular labor market.

“A 0% unemployment rate would mean we didn’t have a free-market economy, because nobody could leave a job,” Panuccio said. “You want some turn in the labor market. There are people who leave their jobs to pursue better jobs; to go get some more education to get a different job. Generally, I think you want to get [the unemployment rate] below five percent; I think we can still do better.”

Among the various sectors in the Pensacola area, education, health services, trade-transportation-utilities and leisure and hospitality continue to lead the pack in gains. Those and construction are leaders in the Crestview area.

Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.8%; Hendry County was the highest at 8.6%. The May data can be found at www.floridajobs.org.

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